ICG: Out and About

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The Office of Technology Transfer at Emory is lucky to work with some of the most prestigious research labs in the country. However, even those at the OTT who directly interface with researchers and lab PI’s only see a fraction of their work. Employees can lack context for the challenges, demands, and excitement of the research process itself. In recent months, the Industry Contracting Group has tried to change this by conducting site visits – afternoon excursions to Emory-affiliated labs. These visits are meant as fun enrichment experiences that also provide a more concrete frame-of-reference for the technical work done in the office.

So far, the Industry Contracting Group has conducted two site visits. This past summer, they had the opportunity to visit David Wright, MD at Grady Hospital. Wright provided a tour of the Grady ER and then led the ICG team through the Stroke Center, renowned as one of the country’s premiere care centers for stroke victims. Daniella Carter, a Sr. Sponsored Research Analyst in ICG, recalls walking into a room where “a patient on a bed… was hooked up to something and behind a window, researchers were on their computers watching the scan as they were in the guy’s brain.” This interaction, as Carter called it “to see it live and in action,” was visceral compared to the usual emails or phone calls traded back and forth between researchers and tech transfer specialists.

In November, the ICG group embarked on their second site visit, this time visiting a lab dedicated to sickle cell and stroke. The lab’s PI, Hyacinth Hyacinth, MD, PhD primarily works with mice and Carter recalls watching the lab’s team slice a treated mouse brain to place on slides under a microscope.

These visits are mutually beneficial for scientists and their partners in OTT. Researchers are able to explain the reasons why they do the research they do and why it is important to their contacts. Furthermore, they can directly elucidate what their research process looks like, as it might contrast with how we typically envision scientific work. Carter explains how when she heard she was visiting a lab, “I pictured a big room with a bunch of equipment like in high school. The whole room I thought was his, but that’s not how it works.” She explained how there is in fact a large room full of equipment, but it is divided into rows and occupied by a handful of different researchers who all pay to share in using the devices.

People who work in the ICG group similarly left with a new perspective on their own work. By talking directly with PI’s, people in ICG got a better sense of researchers’ priorities. Mekia Hardy, a Sr. Assoc. Sponsored Research Analyst, described discussing research delay periods with Hyacinth. Typically, research sponsors ask for publication-bound work within a certain number of days. Once this work has been submitted, the ICG places its own deadline for the work to be reviewed and returned. Hardy described pressing sponsors to get work returned at times and her visit to Hyacinth in part helped quell a sense of immediate, pressing urgency. As she stated, “Sometimes we feel like ‘oh no, we have to’ and he says ‘well, from my perspective, I don’t mind about [delayed] publication’ … It’s not a hard and fast thing for him.” More important, she explained, was that he keeps the rights to his work.

For now, the biggest obstacle to continuing site visits is scheduling. Finding a time when the whole ICG as well as a lab PI both have a manageable enough workload to learn from each other is tricky. But, this hopefully doesn’t preclude the possibility of site visits entirely. As Hardy explained, “It helps to have a frame when talking about publication, but more so it helps to see what our clinical trials are a part of. Let’s look at what our negotiations are a part of. We have something to do with this. It serves many good purposes.”